A guide to creative Russia

The sound artist: Mujuice, Russia’s foremost electronic musician, eyes his London debut

  • The sound artist: Mujuice, Russia’s foremost electronic musician, eyes his London debut

With a repertoire that shifts between grinding techno, glitch, classical music and contemporary jazz, Roma Litvinov, better known by his stage name Mujuice, has rapidly developed a reputation as one of Russia’s most innovative electronic musicians. Litvinov achieved this status after releasing his second LP Downshifting (2011), which took everybody by surprise with its experimental approach to lyrics and unexpected allusions to Soviet rock bands. On 31 May, he perfoms live in London for the first time as headliner of the first Calvert Studio night, a new series of music events produced by The Calvert Journal, featuring specially selected artists from Russia and the UK.

You are one of only a few Russian musicians whose work is exported. Why do you think there are so few projects coming out of Russia that are of interest to foreign audiences?

I believe there’s a new generation of producers developing in the country and they’ll definitely prove themselves in the near future. It’s really important to find the right balance between a local, distinctive identity and global trends to create something very unique. At the same time I can’t say that I see myself as a part of any community so it’s hard for me to make general judgements. 

Your albums are strikingly different from each other shifting from minimal techno and IDM to pop and dub. How do you come to work across such a range?

I can’t see much difference internally as all these transitions stem from the same artistic quest to liberate yourself from your own "comfort zone". Technically I could have been doing the same things for years, but it wouldn’t have given me enough pressure to constantly experiment and stir the boundaries between superficial genres and subjective associations.

You graduated from university as a graphic designer and have created most of your own videos and artworks. How important is it for you to exercise full control over your artistic output?

I’ve been quite eagerly collaborating with many other musicians including Sasha DZA or Anton Kubikov from SCSI-9, but it’s true that I might be quite autonomous when it comes to my attempts to transmit subtle matters. In this respect I see myself more as an artist or even filmmaker rather than a songwriter or composer.

Does that eclectic approach help or hinder establishing you in a music world in which genres and labels still rule the day?

It does both actually. When I play in Europe at festivals like Sonar or Transmusicales I feel that I share the same universal code as many other international artists. On the other hand most of my latest works are based on texts written in Russian. I certainly belong to this language realm which is also reflected in various, less obvious details such as my affinity to old-fashioned sound effects. I don’t expect international audiences to grasp all these nuances. 

Given that you are increasingly playing at major festivals around the world, are you tempted to move away from Moscow, to, say, Berlin or London?

In theory I’d love to base myself in Berlin. Right now, it’s the most modern, truly multicultural city and it’s ideally suited to making music. But now that I’m travelling abroad a lot, I’ve developed a very different perspective of Moscow. There are so many positive and negative challenges, cash flow temptation, daily risks and social stratification. It’s not the most pleasant city in a consumer sense, but for me, there’s nowhere else like Moscow right now.

You are playing a stand alone set in London for the first time. Do you plan anything special for the UK audience?

I’m working on new tracks and would be keen to test them on the local crowd. It’s quite risky as I rarely show my new stuff before the release, but I hope it will work out this time. It’s been quite a while since the release of my latest compilation, Mistakes and Regrets (2012), and it feels I need to switch again to another channel to carry on my artistic exploration.

Mujuice plays a live set at the first Calvert Studio night on 31 May.

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